I was in Florida visiting my parents for the holidays when news broke of two volunteer firefighters ambushed and killed in Webster, N.Y., by a shooter who ended his own life. I was saddened by the incident, even more so by the fact such an incident wasn’t surprising to me. I heard of such incidents from my father’s days as a Chicago Fire Department lieutenant at Engine 8 in Chinatown.
When my father wasn’t scraping up bodies from nearby I-94, he responded to some of the worst neighborhoods in the city. It wasn’t unusual for him to come home from a shift and, while making the family breakfast before school, describe firefighters shielding themselves with trucks as residents from skyscraper project buildings shot down at them. Firefighters had to wait it out until police arrived.
“We are there to put out the fire; we are the good guys,” he’d laugh while telling the story. But I never really understood what was so funny about it — or how nonchalant he acted about it, like it was the absurd part of the job.
So it was no shock to either of us that two firefighters died by gunfire in Webster. That’s a bad sign. And while I would like to think firefighters lives are at risk more now than ever given the cultural climate of gun violence, I also know the problem has been around for decades.
While I am not a gun advocate by any means, is it time to mandate an armed peace officer is in place on each rig for all runs? Is it fair to say the culture demands that first responders be armed?
Case in point is a story that received little mainstream media press but makes a significant point when it comes to armed first responders, both off duty and on duty. Just after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, gunfire erupted at a movie theater in Bexar County, Texas. An off-duty Bexar County Sheriff officer who was working at the theater shot the suspect four times and wounded him. The man is in custody, and lives were spared.
“I don’t know,” my father said to me when I proposed a mandatory peace officer training for all firefighters, paid in conjunction with a municipality’s police/fire budget. “I’ve never enjoyed guns and that’s not why I joined the fire service. I would’ve been a cop, then.”
Good point. But times haven’t changed since he left the job more than 15 years ago, and a solution is needed to at least give firefighters the tools to defend themselves when their lives are at risk. Don’t you think it is immoral to send them in like sitting ducks as seen in Webster? What if just one of the firefighters was armed? Wouldn’t that have perhaps saved a life?
What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.